"It may be unfair to dismiss Nas’ success as merely a piggyback ride on the back of L Boogie and her Refugee Camp, but I can come to no other conclusion for this year’s most surprising success story, as almost overnight, Nas-the-Martyr has become Nas-the-Superstar. Meanwhile, Jay-Z is somewhere lounging on a leather couch sipping an ice-cold bottle of Moet. Since he still runs his own operation and puts put his own shit, Jay-Z, when all is said, done, and divvied up, will probably make more money."
This quote is from the legendary Elliott Wilson who recently re-released an article called “Elliott's 1996 'Reasonable Doubt'. In the article Elliott Wilson compared and contrasted two hip-hop legends who both dropped critically acclaimed albums within a week of each other. Nas’s 'It Was Written' and Jay-Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’.
This one paragraph can also sum up two artists from Tulsa. Gang51E June and Steph Simon. From the outside June has been a commercial success. But when you peel back the layers you see just how much of a success and a boss that Step Simon is. The DIY artist that Steph Simon has been his whole career has always been the HOV way. From selling physical copies before putting his album on streaming, to creating a festival that booked June, (remember Jay-Z was the head of Def Jam and had Nas on the artist roster.) June may have the streams, but Steph Simon is getting the front and backdoor money. Also when it comes to throwing a show in Tulsa it’s Steph Simon that people call to curate the acts that should perform together. And may we not forget Fire in Little Africa. A commemorative project that was executive produced by Steph Simon that included over 70 artists. More than 70 were invited, some of which didn’t think the stage would be big enough. But as we see, the city is “Shining" because of it. With a city that’s in the world spotlight, no other artist has thrown as many ooops as Steph Simon. So it’s only right that when he dropped his new album “Diamonds From The Tisdale” that he get his stats and not pass on the time that he's been grinding for. This new album leaves beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
When it comes to making an album the most important parts are the 1st track and the last track of an album. Anyone that has heard a Steph Simon album knows that he has always delivered both. The first track “2020 Vision” sounds like the manifestation of his title track “Visions” off his 2017 release ‘Visions From the Tisdale’. “Visions” is Steph’s foresight into what he believes his city can become, and it concludes with speaker Buddy Rodrigrez who delivers a narration on both tracks. On “2020 Vision” Steph Simon knows himself and knows the power of speaking things into existence. This is exactly what he’s done his whole career. Spoke it and then manifested. The goals of “Visions” were spoken into existence, now the same manifestation will help him speak into existence the goals he raps about on “Visions 2020. ”I can see them vultures comin, gonna make sure we eatin first." This statement is undeniable with just how many artists from Oklahoma that he put on the “Fire In Little Africa” project.” And how many artists he’s booked for shows throughout the years.
“Poppin’ shit sober minded, I don’t even like Advil but I don’t need Molly”
For years Steph Simon has been a humble rapper. And for years fans have been wanting him to flex on tracks just to let the haters know that it ain’t safe, and at any time he can push the button. Well “Hoop Shorts” is that track. His delivery on the track is like someone who says, “Yea I said it, and I meant it”. And if his words aren’t enough, he shot the video in New York to let the world know that it’s Steph ‘Diamond's’ time. The whole song is a big flex, especially at the end when he spits the line to tell people he doesn’t need the drugs to be cool and is already comfortable as himself.
“Baby I kept it Jim from the jump, before that Obama and Trump, had Player’s Choice in that trunk, and I wasn’t takin’ no shit from no punk”.
‘Jim’ has been a word of brotherhood, it’s in you and not on you. But on “Jim For Life”, Jim is almost being protected as if there’s a lot of people that have been using the word without being one. And not everyone gets a Jim pass. One of the Forefathers and protectors of ‘Jim’ Keeng Cut shows us just what it means to be a “Jim”. As he delivers a Khampa Trillman like verse just to let people know this ain’t just a word, but most importantly it’s for life.
When it comes to collaborations the track that sticks out Jim For Life is definitely one, but that standouts the most on the album has to be on the song “Bars for the BBQ”. Long time Jim's Steph Simon and 1st Verse go bar-for-bar like teammates at a dominoes game. Both artists are the upper echelon when it comes to being a lyricist. But this collab leaves both artist shining, each setting up the other to score, and at the end they both yell DOMINO!. “Momentum swingin’ with the metaphysic leverages, Tone remind me that what we doin ain’t regular shit, Out here tryna set it like the price and the precedent, put fire on the food and ice on the beverages."
With the tracks “No Chaperone” and “Skate Town'' Steph Simon proves that he knows how to make a love song. “No Chaperone” is for anyone that remembers the lock-ins at the Mabee Center, and the other recreational events that were supposed to keep young people out of trouble but was the perfect space for getting into some trouble over. Steph raps over a sample of H-Town’s hit single “They Like It Slow”. "Skate Town" is the telling of a love story of Steph Simon’s parents meeting at Skate Town that was located on 36th and and North Peoria. A soulful Billy Bruner sings over a bounce disco-filled track that sets the tone and the groove you needed to have fun at Skate Town. The breakdown at the end of the track is so smooth, like that last chance you have to get to the number from the girl you’ve been eyeing all night. Check out the video below:
With such a personal album as Visions From The Tisadale, songs like “Detours” and “Dreamland” carry on that same personal feel to "Diamonds From The Tisdale". “Detours” features artists Branjae and Sterling Mathews “10,000 hours, I put that in a long time ago”. The song is Steph Simon realizing that the path to success wasn’t a straight line and that the shortcuts aren’t promised to get you where you need to be. “Crucify” is like the pressure to stay the same but knowing that you have to grow to get where you need to be. Real ones know, fake ones say you changed. Personal can also mean feel good, BBQ songs like “Zaggin Interlude” or “Sunday Diner” these two tracks remind you of the same feelings that Steph created on “Chillin on It (Just Vibin)” or “Sunny On the N.S.” two tracks that took you through his personal experiences and most importantly his neighborhood. You’re riding down TIsdale Expressway on this new album.
“Dreamland”! Dreamland! We gotta discuss the last track of this album. Like we said before, Steph Simon knows how to make an outro track. And "Dreamland" shows you just what we mean. The track is Steph’s dream realized. But also it’s him realizing that he’s not through dreaming. The “Dreamland” track is filled with a plethora of bars and quotables that’s like his version of “Feelin’ It”. Checkout the video to see just how big that dream has become!
"Diamonds From The Tisdale" is an album that came at the right grimming (grinding + timing). Some might even call this his Victory Lap album because he took the formula of what worked and what the fans liked from “Visions from the Tisdale” and enhanced it even more. Unlike Jay-Z this isn’t Steph Simon’s 1st studio album. But like Jay-Z, this album won’t get the commercial success it deserves but it is undeniably a classic. To the critics Diamonds from the Tisdale is the Reasonable Doubt that Steph Simon is one of the greatest artists of our time. And even more Steph Simon is moving into a bosses role more and more like the one they call Hov.
Make sure you checkout Steph Simon's new album "Diamonds From The Tisdale" now streaming everywhere!
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